Nineteen: Hellfire

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Report: Quinn
The west coast of Russia.
An abandoned mining facility.
Designation: Zolotoy

It felt like a shove to the back.
My head almost hit my control panel as the entire mech tipped backward. My saving grace was my shield, which helped to counterbalance me and stop the wall of shrapnel that flew my way. A blast of air swept over me, heat stifling even inside the insulated command capsule.

The mech had been a bomb. The TCC had built a mech that's only purpose was to destroy itself. How could a pilot survive that?

The answer made me sick. Nobody was supposed to survive that. But that little fact didn't matter to the TCC and their mechtomless coffers.

Dust choked my vision, chunks of riverbed turned into a fine mist by the blast. I scanned the area, ready for an attack that never came. To my right, a rock the size of a truck was embedded in the soil, unearthed by the blast and pushed along the riverbed like a curling stone. It glowed red, matching the color of the front of my shield.

My voice rang in my ears.
"Holy hell, everyone ok?"

As I stepped forward through the dust, the comms crackled and a torrent of grumbled check-ins ensued.

"Troy here, my Veles took a hit but I jumped and avoided most of the blast."

"Kedrick, same here. The blast hurt, but I leapt and landed safely. No small thanks to you, Jax. Your warning came just in time."

"Karen Buchanan, checking in. My Lynx is a tough old bird, I weathered the blast. Glad I wasn't too close, though."

I heard Daewi's voice grumble something unintelligible, but he sounded off seconds later.

"Hit my head on the dashboard. Got a killer headache. I'll survive. Where's Warren?"

Where's Warren.

Those two words flooded my veins with ice water. Warren, the pilot of the Regiment, had to have been closest to the blast. I took a few tentative steps through the rapidly clearing smog and a proximity warning flashed when my Galatine's foot hit something solid.

I could see what was left of the Regiment, torn asunder by the shockwave of the blast. The upper body had taken the hit, the cone-shaped cockpit of the mech punched inward by the concussive blast. The chrome barrels of the mech's twin machine guns glowed a red, bent backwards as if by some invisible hand.

Nobody could survive that.

"There's no time to mourn," I said, hating that we couldn't stop to pay respects. "We have to push forward. We're still equal in numbers to those TCC bastards, and they're going to pay for what they did to Warren."

Daewi only groaned out a reply, voice lilting as he spoke.

"Listen Jax, I... I'm not feeling so hot. I think it's best you keep us moving. I think I'm going to-"

Poor, concussed Daewi graciously shut off his comms before we had to hear what followed.

I guess that left me to give us orders.

I scanned the terrain. All other enemy mechs were near the dam, at the far end of the battlefield. We were too far away to see our enemy, but we knew there five of them left and they were waiting for us.

Ahead of me a bridge extended across the dry bank of the river towards the mining district, and a long, winding road passed between the bridge and a farm. It would make a decent vantage point and give us a height advantage.

"Alright," I began, "split up! I need someone to head over to the farm and hunker down in cover. The rest of us will cross the river and engage the enemy for the beacons in the mining district. Someone fast has to go for the other beacons while we have them distracted. Any volunteers?"

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